Tuesday 3 July 2012

Tower Hill Terrace EC3

Tower Hill Terrace is a rather bleak space on top of a huddle of shops selling fast food and tourist tat, but its western side is graced by a pair of gateposts to All Hallows Barking, topped by these kids frolicking in the surf with dolphins.
They were created as a memorial to Sir Follett Holt, first chairman of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust. Sir Follett, a businessman with links to Argentina, had supported Tubby Clayton, founder of Toc H and vicar of All Hallows, in his campaign to remove 'certain ugly buildings' from Tower Hill. Appropriately, Tower Hill Terrace itself is the basement of one of those buildings - a rather grim warehouse.
Sir Follett died in 1944 but the memorial was not erected until 1965 at the end of the restoration of All Hallows after its almost total destruction in the blitz.
The figures, called 'The Sea' were designed by Cecil Thomas, another great friend of Tubby Clayton. He also created many works in the church, including Clayton's own memorial, a full-length recumbent figure like a medieval bishop.
Thomas was one of the 'soldier sculptors' who served in the First World War - others include Jagger, Dick and Roslyn. It seems significant that so many sculptors who came to prominence between the wars should have been soldiers, but almost every able-bodied man of that generation served in one way or another so perhaps it is not so strange. The post-war boom in memorial sculpture inevitably linked them conflict, I suppose.
Thomas started his career as a miniaturist, working in cameos and coins. He later had his studio in Brompton Road, bequeathing it to the Royal Society of British Sculptors (now the Royal British Society of Sculptors).

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